Ovarian Cysts Symptoms Diagnosis

An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that develops on or in the ovaries, the female reproductive organs that produce and store eggs. A woman can develop an ovarian cyst as the ovaries prepare eggs for release into the fallopian tubes. While many ovarian cysts are completely benign (not harmful to health), there may be a connection between some ovarian cysts and cancer.

Types of Ovarian Cyst

An ovarian cyst may develop for a number of reasons and range in severity from completely harmless to life threatening. Types of ovarian cysts include:

  • Cystadenomas
  • Dermoid cysts
  • Endometriomas
  • Functional cysts
  • Polycystic ovaries.

Ovarian Cyst Symptoms

The type of cyst that develops will determine the ovarian cyst symptoms a woman will experience. You may develop an ovarian cyst that is asymptomatic, which is an ovarian cyst that doesn’t have any noticeable symptoms. When ovarian cyst symptoms do develop they can include:

  • Achiness in the in the back (especially the lower back) and upper legs
  • Breast tenderness
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Painful intercourse
  • Pressure and/or pain in the abdomen
  • Pressure and/or pain on the bladder and/or rectum
  • Problems passing urine
  • Weight gain.

Keep in mind that the above ovarian cyst symptoms are nonspecific and can indicate the presence of other conditions, such as:

  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Endometriosis
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease.

Ovarian cancer symptoms can also mimic symptoms of ovarian cysts, so a doctor’s diagnosis of possible cysts is important.

In some cases, ovarian cysts may be particularly harmful to your health. The following ovarian cyst symptoms will require immediate medical attention:

  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath and/or rapid breathing
  • Vomiting.

Diagnosing an Ovarian Cyst

Because most ovarian cyst symptoms are nonspecific (or don’t exist at all), most cases of an ovarian cyst are diagnosed during a woman’s annual Pap smear. At these routine checkups, the gynecologist feels the ovaries to detect if any swelling or lesion is present.

If the gynecologist identifies inflammation, she may order an ultrasound. If there is an ovarian cyst, the ultrasound will reveals its:

  • Consistency
  • Location
  • Shape
  • Size.

Similarly, ultrasounds can highlight whether the ovarian cyst is filled with:

  • Fluid
  • Mixture of substances
  • Solid masses.

Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis

Upon locating an ovarian cyst, doctors routinely perform blood tests to evaluate the risk of ovarian cancer. If blood tests return with abnormally high amounts of the protein CA-125, an ovarian cancer diagnosis is likely.

Early diagnosis increases the chance of successful

ovarian cancer treatment. Regular gynecological exams are extremely important to early ovarian cancer diagnosis; prompt treatment of ovarian cancer can save lives. In the early stages of ovarian cancer, the following are effective treatment options:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Surgery.


Mayo Clinic Staff. (2007). Ovarian cysts: Symptoms. Retrieved February 12, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ovarian-cancer/DS00293/DSECTION=symptoms.

National Women’s Health Information Center Staff. (2008). Ovarian cysts. Retrieved February 12, 2010, from the Women’s Health Web site: http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/ovarian-cysts.cfm.